On Moby-Dick

I have a confession to make. It took me several years to finish reading Moby-Dick. It took me ages to read it, but to actually understand what happened…um. I’m still working on it. If anyone has any tips about how to get a better understanding of the events and symbolism in this novel, please let me know!

I loved the powerful opening line – Call me Ishmael. First lines are meant to grip the reader, and propel them to the second line, and so forth, and Moby-Dick did exactly that. The language befuddled me at several points, so I definitely need to do several re-readings.

I don’t know much about sailing, boats or whaling, but by the end of the novel, I learned that the ocean is not a force to be trifled with. And that whales can be SCARY. Especially hulking old ones with a vendetta against a one-legged madman. It goes to show the double-edged sword of relentless ambition….you may get what you want, but is the price something you’re willing to pay? Hm.

On Antagonists and Peacocks

“You know my powers, my dear Watson, and yet at the end of three months I was forced to confess that I had at last met an antagonist who was my intellectual equal. My horror at his crimes was lost in my admiration at his skill.” – Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr (1859-1930)

What makes a good antagonist? Here’s a quick list of what comes to mind:

  • Lord Of The Rings: Sauron
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader & Emperor Palpatine
  • Moby-Dick: Moby-Dick
  • Little Red Riding Hood: The Big Bad Wolf

If you scan that list, it’s easy to spot why I’ve picked them as the antagonists. They were clearly trying to endanger the protagonist. However, I read a blog post by K.M. Welland that suggests something different – antagonists don’t have to be actually bad guys. An antagonist could even be, as she says, the weather! Of course, antagonists are most commonly crafted as characters whom the protagonist can flee from or fight. It’s interesting though, to think of a protagonist grappling with inner demons as being his own antagonist – inside his own mind. I remember being fascinated by the protagonist Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. He was the narrator of the story who committed a hideous crime, then drove himself insane with the guilt. Who’s the antagonist there? Well…to a large degree, I think he was. Sure, you could argue that Ilya Petrovich, the police inspector who was tracking him down, was the antagonist, but it was Raskolnikov’s decision to confess that ultimately sent him into exile.

Black and white, cookie-cutter bad guys are a lot less interesting than far more complex antagonists, who are determined to push back against the protagonist. And when they’re all bundled up in the same person…well. Definitely interesting.

On another note, I’ve been hearing these loud and bizzare sounds in the middle of the night. My husband and I think that maybe it’s some kind of bird. Except what kind of bird squawks so loudly at two in the morning? I need to find closure with this, so I’ve been trawling the web.  It kind of has the volume of the Great Malay Argus, but it’s missing something…then I found the sound of a peacock! I honestly think it is peacock mating season. And it is NOISY. You know, there must be some cosmic irony in this. We moved to this lovely apartment to escape the rock-hammering at our old place, and now, we’re being trolled by MATING PEACOCKS! *facepalm*